There seems to be an unwritten rule in modern US politics that former presidents generally stay out of politics, and in particular refrain from publicly criticizing the incumbent.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, together with his daughter Liz Cheney, has just published a book entitled Exceptional, which appears to be mainly focused on condemning President Obama's foreign policy.

The New York Times comments in its review:

Former presidents may keep quiet about those who occupy the White House once they leave, but the code clearly does not extend to vice presidents.

Is there precedent for a former US vice president offering public criticism of a later administration?

2 Answers 2


Yes. Al Gore, the Vice President under Clinton, publicly criticized George W. Bush several times during Bush's presidency. For instance, he wrote a book in 2007 which was widely considered an attack on the Bush administration (heavily criticizing it).

  • 1
    +1 And before him, Dan Quayle had stern criticism of Clinton, etc. Since it's not uncommon for former VPs to later run for the top job, I'd bet we could find examples a long way back.
    – Geobits
    Sep 10, 2015 at 12:58
  • @Geobits: Good point. Interestingly, only one former (non-sitting) vice president has ever been elected president: Richard Nixon in 1968 (he served as vice president from 1953-1961 under Eisenhower, but of course not under Kennedy or Johnson). Sep 10, 2015 at 18:02
  • 1
    This makes a lot of sense. VPs tend to still be active politicians and politicians are always criticizing others come election time. Presidents seem to retire. (Granted, that doesn't explain Cheney...though in his case, I'm sure it's mainly just to stay relevant/sell books)
    – user1530
    Sep 11, 2015 at 1:05

It's probably because the former Presidents have already reached the highest point in their career. Because of this, they don't feel a need to criticize the succeeding administration, because they're already in the "Presidents' Club." Former Presidents usually stay silent during the succeeding administration, focusing on their own, generally philanthropic goals. Vice Presidents don't seem to have their own "Vice Presidents' Club," and usually are the ones to criticise the succeeding administration.

Sometimes Vice Presidents do this because they want to stay in politics, perhaps running for the presidency someday (Richard Nixon under Eisenhower).

  • 2
    I like this theory. It's akin to 'second place jealousy'. :)
    – user1530
    Sep 11, 2015 at 1:02
  • Hokkien even has a word for it - "kiasu" Jan 27, 2021 at 15:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .